I'm not dead

I'm here!  I'm alive!  Didn't mean to worry the five of you who check in every day.

So it's Thursday, and I'm getting to the end of another burn-out week.  I've just wrapped up what will (hopefully) be the final revision of the book.  It needs one more check for any weird formatting errors that sometimes pop up for no discernible reason in MS Word.  If my agent is happy, we're going on sub.  If she's not, it's another round of revisions.

I've also been working on cleaning up some of my new WIP, which my agent also asked to see... and that's all I can really say about that.  Though I must say a public thank-you to my friend Jen, who came up with an awesome name for my serial killer.

Thanks Jen!

In other news...

I ordered a bunch of books from B&N that finally came yesterday.  I love it when there's a box of books waiting on my doorstep.  It's like Christmas, no joke!  In keeping with my YA trend, I'll be reading SHIVER by Maggie Steifvater and WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson over the next couple of weeks.  I also bought THE HOST by Stephenie Meyer.  I'm curious to see if her adult fiction voice is different from her YA voice.

I also bought Julia Child's cookbook.  I'm planning to cook something from it this weekend, and I'll let you know how that goes.  (Hint:  I've never made anything French before. Ever.)

Aha!

I spent the whole day – like 8 hours – revising the one scene in my book my agent wasn't crazy about.  Banged out about 2,500 words.  Hit a wall, backed myself into a corner.  And then couldn't write myself out of it no matter hard I tried.

Trying to completely revise one scene that doesn't work – which happens to be sandwiched between two other scenes that do work – is like trying to fit the last piece into a jigsaw puzzle only to realize it's the wrong piece and doesn't quite fit.  I can't change the beginning of the scene because it's connected to the previous scene.   I can't change the end of the scene because it's connected to the following scene.  All I can do is work with what's in the middle, and that's a lot harder than it sounds (and just as confusing!).

So I stepped away from the computer.  I made dinner.  I actually cooked, even though it's just me this week and I'll have leftovers for the next three days.  I caught up on my backlog of DVR'd TV shows.  Then I cleaned up the kitchen, fed the cats, and had some dessert.

And then finally, finally, as I was enjoying the sweet sinfulness of a Godiva dark chocolate truffle, I had a breakthrough.

The solution was to make a few minor tweaks to the scene as it originally was.  And once I started, it only took about forty-five minutes to complete.  I spent all day over-thinking it, and once I stopped thinking about it, it practically solved itself.

Or maybe it was the chocolate.

Like I said the other day, I'm slow... but I get there.

And now I feel really, really good about this book.  I'm just about ready to send it out into the world.  Have I ever said that before?  I don't think I have.

And it pleases me to say it, yes it does.

Isn't it cool when the most exciting thing in your day happens before 9 am?

And no, it's not because the constructions workers next door are listening to salsa music and wiggling their butts while they work.

(Really.)

My conference call this morning with my agent went well. She's such a nice person, full of laughs, and she says fuck more than I do (which is impressive, and a good thing – I really hate it when I'm the potty mouth in the relationship, which is most of the time, except when I'm around other writers).

The book is very nearly good to go.  She made one suggestion about the ending which I have to do some hard thinking on, because right now I don't know whether it's the right way to go or not.  She did tell me, "Your book, your call."  But of course I want her to love everything about this book, so I'll sleep on it and see how I feel in a day or two.  The suggestion in itself is fairly minor and wouldn't require a major revision and might just make the ending stronger.  BUT, how this book ends directly affects the sequel, which I'm writing now.  So the change would be minor for Creep but major for Beautiful Disaster.

Aaaaand I just answered my own question.  Creep is the book that's about to be submitted to every major publishing house in New York City.  Of course I'll make the change.

I'm slow... but I get there.  Eventually.

So it looks like the rest of the week is going to be devoted to giving the book one last revision.

Wish me luck.  I could be on sub next week!

Friday tidbits

My brain is officially fried.  Which could be because I have eggs on my mind.  How else can I explain writing the word "joke" as "jolk", like egg yolk?  And then wondering why my spell check was underlining it?  I did this not once, but twice yesterday.  That's how I know I'm getting close to burnout.

No jolk.


Here's my week in summary:

6,785 new words added to the WIP this week (insert Big Fat Yay Me! here).

Received some feedback from my agent regarding the revised manuscript.  She likes it! She likes it!  We have a phone meeting scheduled for Tuesday to talk about what happens next.

Ordered four new books from Barnes & Noble:
MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING by Julia Child (you saw that one coming, didn't ya?)
SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater
WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson
MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins (this one won't be out till August, but if I pre-order it, I save a couple bucks)

Clearly I'm on a YA kick these days.

Finally finished reading THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO last night.  It was a great book, a really interesting, really well-written, really poignant book, but it has left me feeling super sad and mopey today.  Why are Pulitzer Prize winning novels always so sad? I've had THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy on my shelf for over a year now, and dude, I just don't know if I can go there.

Started compiling a list of books to buy when I hit Powell's next month.  I'm trying to rebuild the collection of books I had (and loved) when I was a kid, and I can only do this with used books, because I'm trying to find the exact versions I had back in the 70s and 80s.  Finding them brings me great happiness and much joy!

That was my week, and now I'm looking forward to a weekend of doing nothing.  Because let's face it, as great as I am at doing other things (like sleeping and watching TV and looking in the fridge for something to eat), I do nothing extremely well.

Have a great weekend.

Oldie but goodie: A Woman's Week At The Gym

Dear Diary,

For my 40th birthday this year, my husband (such a sweetheart) purchased a week of personal training at the local health club for me.  Although I'm still in great shape since being a high school cheerleader 23 years ago, I decided it would be a good idea to go ahead and give it a try.  I called the club and booked sessions with a personal trainer named Christo, who identified himself as a 26-year-old aerobics instructor and underwear model.  My husband seemed pleased with my enthusiasm to get started.  The club encouraged me to keep a diary to chart my progress.


MONDAY:

Started my day at 6:00 a.m.  Tough to get out of bed, but found it was well worth it when I arrived at the health club to find Christo waiting for me.  He is something of a Greek God, with blond hair, dancing eyes, and a dazzling white smile.  Woo hoo!

Christo gave me a tour and showed me the machines.  I enjoyed watching the skillful way in which he conducted his aerobics class after my workout today.  Very inspiring!

Christo was encouraging as I did my sit-ups, although my gut was already aching from holding it in the whole time he was around.  But I know this is going to be a fantastic week!

TUESDAY:
I drank a whole pot of coffee, but I finally made it out the door.  Christo made me lie on my back and push a heavy iron bar into the air, and then he put weights on it.   My legs were a little wobbly on the treadmill, but I ran the full mile.   Christo's rewarding smile made it all worthwhile.  I feel great!  It’s a whole new life for me.

WEDNESDAY:
The only way I can brush my teeth is by laying the toothbrush on the counter and moving my mouth back and forth over it. I believe I have a hernia in both pectorals.  Driving was okay as long as I didn’t try to steer or stop.  I parked on top of a bicycle in the club's parking lot.

Christo was impatient with me, insisting that my screams bothered other club members. His voice is a little too perky for this early in the morning, and when he scolds, he gets this nasally whine which is very annoying.

My chest hurt when I got on the treadmill, so Christo put me on the stair monster.  Why in the hell would anyone invent a machine to simulate an activity rendered obsolete by elevators? Christo told me it would help me get in shape and enjoy my life.  He said some other shit, too.

THURSDAY:
Asshole was waiting for me with his vampire-like teeth exposed.  His thin, cruel lips were pulled back in a full snarl.  Excuse me, I couldn’t help being a half an hour late – it took me that long to tie my shoes.

He made me work out with dumbbells.  When he wasn't looking, I ran and hid in the restroom.  He sent some skinny bitch to find me.

Then, as punishment, he put me on the rowing machine – which I sank.

FRIDAY:
I hate that bastard Christo more than any human being has ever hated any other human being in the history of the world.  Stupid, skinny, anorexic little aerobic instructor.  If there was a part of my body I could move without unbearable pain, I would beat him with it.

Christo wanted me to work on my triceps today. I don’t have any triceps!  And if you don’t want dents in the floor, don’t hand me the goddamn barbells or anything else that weighs more than a sandwich.  Asswipe.


SATURDAY:
Satan just left a message on my answering machine.  He asked me in his grating, shrilly voice why I did not show up today.  Just hearing him speak made me want to smash the machine with my diary; however, I lack the strength to even use the TV remote control. I spent the day watching eleven straight hours of the Weather Channel.

SUNDAY:
I’m having the Church van pick me up for services today so I can go and thank God that this week is over.   I will also pray that next year my husband will choose a gift for me that is fun – perhaps a root canal, or a hysterectomy.

Author:  Unknown

Annoying things non-writers say that they don't realize are annoying

Non-writer: I've always wanted to write a book. I think I will when I have some free time.

Me: Cool. I've always wanted to be a doctor. I think I will when I have some free time.

Non-writer: Have you ever considered self-publishing? I know a guy who did that with his memoir on alcoholism/new diet plan that really works/how-to-book on building homemade bombs. And he sold like, fifty copies.

Me: No, I haven't considered it. Because I don't write memoirs/diet books/how-to-books, and I'd really like to sell more than fifty copies.

Non-writer: Have you ever thought about writing a non-fiction novel?

Me: Of course. I dream about it. Because if I did, I'd be the first person in the history of the world to do so.

Non-writer: You should really talk to my friend X. She also wants to be a writer. She writes for her school paper/has a gossip blog/writes advertising copy. You'd have lots in common.

Me: Thanks. And you should really talk to my friend Z. She, too, has long hair. And a cat. And sometimes wears pink nail polish. You'd have lots in common.

Non-writer: Why do you like thrillers? Do you have fantasies about killing people?

Me: Why did you like Avatar? Do you have fantasies about being blue?

Non-writer: I don't really like books.

Me: I don't really like you.

Is it wrong that I want Steve to smell like Old Spice?

Favorite commercial of ALL TIME!

Slowly, slowly, slowly...

I can feel the wheels in the part of my brain that writes first drafts beginning to spin.

It's been a tough start getting back into the new WIP.  Last week didn't go as well as I'd hoped.  So let's just say that this week needs to go a whole lot fucking better.

The irony is that I was so totally inspired to write this novel two months ago.  I had an entire vision for the book (which of course I didn't jot down), and now that I've got nothing but time on my hands to get back into it, I can't remember what the story was that I was originally so inspired to tell.

This is why I HATE taking breaks during a draft.  Some writers, I'm sure, can handle it.  Can find their rhythm again easily.  Can stop and start as many times as they need to.  I, unfortunately, cannot.  I only feel comfortable taking a break between drafts, but I made an exception this time because... well... I got an agent.  And my agent wanted revisions on the book she represents, which is Creep.  And nothing was more important than that.

Duh.

Anyway, I feel really good about today's session.  I normally don't write on weekends, but I since I blew off Friday to go to the Tulip Festival, today was penciled in as a working day.  And finally, finally, finally, I can feel the juice coming back.

The tulips were worth it, though.

As part of my commitment to finishing this new novel, I spent a few minutes today figuring out my deadlines and quotas for this book (subject to change should an emergency arise):

First draft completion:  July 30, 2010
Writing sessions between now and then*:  75
Final word count goal:  90,000
Word count quota per writing session to make my goal:  1,022

(*Writing sessions don't include Saturdays or Sundays, long weekends, or trips I've planned.  Taking all that into consideration, there are 75 working days between now and my deadline.)

Do me a favor and keep an eye on my word count to the right of these posts.   If you don't see that number crawling up, NAG THE SHIT OUTTA ME.

Yes, everything is bigger.

While scrolling through other people's blogs, I realized that I could make my template bigger.

Once I made it bigger, the font I usually use seemed really really tiny.

So I changed the font to Times New Roman.  And made it bigger to match my new big template.  And now my words look identical to how I write.   Write write, not blog write.  I don't know about you, but this is much easier on my eyes.

Let me know if this sucks for you as a reader.  But give it a couple of days first, see if you get used to it.

Clash of the Titans

We saw Clash of the Titans the other night, in 3D.

It was just okay.

First of all, I'm not crazy about wearing those 3D glasses.  They're tinted, and the screen looked so much dimmer.  Plus every time Steve and I looked at each other we giggled, because we looked goofy, which ended up minimizing the intensity of the movie-going experience.

Second, it cost an extra $4 per person to watch the movie in 3D.  And, ultimately, there was no special reason to watch the movie in 3D.  So big deal, the credits moved towards you.  A few flying objects came your way.  I would have rather watched the movie in regular 2D, saved the money, saved the weirdly tinted glasses, and probably enjoyed it a lot more.

Third, the movie was meh.  It was perhaps slightly worse than what I expected.  The story got lost in all the CGI effects and I found myself yawning about a third of the way into it. Liam Neeson as Zeus was under utilized.  Sam Worthington, while pretty to look at, did a passable job playing the clich├ęd "reluctant hero" character that was Perseus, but I still didn't find myself caring too much about whether he lived or died.  I did like his Pegasus (who doesn't like a horse with wings?), and the three blind witches, and the scenes with Medusa and the Kraken.

But I thought the ending was cheesy (not the climax, the ending).

We don't go to the movies so much anymore.  It's becoming less worth the effort, I'm sad to say.  We have a pretty big flat screen at home, and movies are coming out in DVD a lot quicker than they used to.  Plus I can make better popcorn for about a tenth the price, and a movie rental costs $5 (whereas two movie tickets costs us $20... or $28 if it's in 3D).  At home, I can go pee without missing anything.  And I can talk to Steve without bothering anyone.

And at home, nobody kicks the back of my chair.  I HATE IT when somebody kicks the back of my chair.  It fills me with blind rage and murderous thoughts.  Seriously.

So tell me, what's the incentive to see a movie on the big screen these days?

Introducing this week's earworm

I learned a cool way to share earworms with you!  Here's what's been running through my head ALL DAY for the past FIVE DAYS:


I sometimes listen to music when I'm writing.  Not always, but sometimes.  Because sometimes I feel like I physically need music for the energy rush, and so the right song is like a good, strong cup of coffee.

Other times, music is like noise interference and it stops me from hearing what's in my head, so I don't listen to anything while I'm writing.

But I almost always listen to something before I start a writing session.  And for sure afterward.  And sometimes in between if I'm taking a break.  The right song can keep me in the right frame of mind for storytelling.  I think I must have listened to Radiohead for about six months straight while writing CREEP (so if you ever wondered where I came up with the name for the book, now you know).  Radiohead is so wonderfully moody, so anti-establishment, so unapologetic, that they made the perfect soundtrack to write a novel I always envisioned would turn out moody and unapologetic (though maybe not so much anti-establishment... I do want to get published!).

Definitely nothing like the cheerful earworm above that's been burrowing in my brain for the past few days.

So... do you listen to music at work?

Julie & Julia

So, in keeping with my cousin's very thoughtful thoughts posted here, I have to say that Julie & Julia really is my favorite movie at the moment.  I watched it for the second time last weekend, and will probably watch it again if Steve is in the mood for it (he hasn't seen it yet).

I don't talk much about movies here on the blog, but I suppose I should, because a good chunk of movies were once books.  I haven't read Julie &Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously (someday I will), but for now can I just say that I really liked the movie?

Julie Powell is a wanna-be writer living in New York who is, of course, not working as a writer.  Instead she has what she describes as a "dead end government job".  So she cooks in her tiny little Queens kitchen to release stress. Somehow she gets the idea that she'll cook all of the recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook (500 plus recipes!) in 365 days, and blog about the entire experience.  The movie parallels Julie Powell's life in NYC with Julia Child's life in Paris, where Julia Child, an American expatriate, struggles to learn how to cook French food.

What I love about this movie is not just the food and cooking scenes (of which there are plenty – and they're delectable, you can practically smell the butter emanating from the TV screen), it's also the fact that Julia Child had a really, really hard time getting her cookbook published.  What a fascinating glimpse of the publishing world in the 1950's!  Plus it was interesting to see how Julie Powell's life changed as her blog grew in popularity (not something I can relate to, as I think maybe six people read my blog) and she found herself becoming more and more invested in her project (this I can relate to).

Personal journeys are always so interesting to me.  When I meet somebody, I always want to know where they've been, both literally and metaphorically. I always want to figure out why they're here and not there.  Why they turned left instead of right, and why they meandered instead of going straight.

And I always want to know where they're headed... and if I can come, too.

The best blog posts are the ones I didn't write

My cousin sent me this message the other day... hope he doesn't mind that I posted it here.  It made me smile.

i have an idea for a book that i'd like to write and i'd appreciate your opinion on it. it's a whimsical tale about a writer and her adventures on the way to getting her first book published. along the way, while learning about the harsh world of novel publication, she doesn't realize it, but she's actually learning more about herself, her friends and family and what's really important in life. what that is, i don't know yet. i think i'll read some of the dalai lama's books and rip off some ideas for this non-fiction, pop-spritual rag that i'll disguise as sacchrine-sweet, meg ryan-esque/julie & julia-esque, non-fiction.

in my process, i'd like to use your wonderful blogs as a basis for the little twists and turns that i'll have my protagonist experience. i figure, if i can scoop some of your writings there, the book is practically half-done already! then, i'll just need to learn how to write a novel, then find the time to write, then re-vise, then find an agent, then.... *sigh*

nevermind. someone else has probably already written that story. oh, wait.... *lightbulb*


Thanks, Wingo.

Sometimes it takes somebody else's take on your life to make you see your life clearly. Since I began this journey, I've been living in a bubble, and every once in a while, I peek out and realize how different everything is.

But it's not the world that's changed.  It's me.  I don't know how this story ends, but there's no question how far I've come.  And isn't that the point of a good story?  To have the protagonist end up in a different place (geographically, emotionally, spiritually) than where she started?  My life is so different than it was three years ago when we were living in Ontario.

Even if this story doesn't end the way I hope it will, every step, every stumble, has been worth it.   So here's to rainy afternoons spent writing, risky choices, and falling flat on your face for the whole world to see!

I promise to smile the entire time.

Cheers!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

CREEP is currently with my agent.  Last Saturday I completed a two-month long first round of revisions, and while a big fat "HELL YEAH!" is certainly in order, I can't get too happy because there could very well be ten billion more rounds of revisions in my future.

Which is okay.  Really.  I want the book to sell, and it's ready when it's ready.  Not a moment sooner.

So now I find myself In Between.  And the In Between periods of my life as a writer are a love-hate thing.   (Then again, everything about writing, for me, is a love-hate thing.)

The In Between means I'm between drafts, or between projects, which is sweet because I can take a break.  A break I know I earned, and a break I really do need in order to recharge my batteries.  But the In Between can also be a time filled with anxiety, because I tend to define myself through my work.  And if I'm not working, then who the hell am I?

If I'm not working, then I'm just a chick who has time to sit around and watch taped shows on my DVR and flip through Pottery Barn catalogs, wondering if I should change the color of my living room walls.

If I'm not working, then I'm thinking about not working, and mentally berating myself for not working, which doesn't feel so good.

If I'm not working, then it's like I'm unemployed, and anyone who's ever been unemployed knows exactly how that feels:  NOT GOOD.

Right now I'm In Between.  I have a brand new Pottery Barn catalog which came in the mail yesterday that I'm saving for tomorrow.  I plan to flip through it while I watch back-to-back episodes of The Young and the Restless and Oprah.  I may or may not buy new lamps this weekend.  And the current color of my living rooms walls is being seriously reconsidered.

But Monday, I'm back to work.  Thank God.

All the single ladies!

My stomach still hurts from laughing... saw this on PerezHilton...



He can be a single lady if he wants to!